State of the Hogs: Not So Special

There was a great start, but lots of chunks of the kicking game were not so special in the season opener.

John L. Smith had the most memorable line on media day. The Arkansas special teams coordinator said the goal was to win one-play battles for "big chunks of land."

There were some big chunks of land won in a 48-10 victory over Missouri State to open the season Saturday. Unfortunately, the Hogs lost some big chunks, too.

Two different Hog kickers kicked off out of bounds three times. The penalty for that is possession for the receiving team at the 40-yard line. There was a fumbled punt and two more punts which hit the ground.

Smith didn't like any of that, but perhaps was most upset when starting cornerback Ramon Broadway ran into the punt receiver on the only punt the Hogs attempted.

"We started great with the kickoff return and I thought our first couple of times we covered kickoffs was great -- we were flying down the field," Smith said. "But we lost focus after that.

"We were inconsistent even for a first game. We had way too many mistakes. You'd hope not to have some of that. At least we didn't have any horrendous offsides but we sure have to get better focus. We've got lots of corrections to make."

It could have been worse. There were moans from the crowd when officials ruled Arkansas had touched the ball on a short MSU punt, resulting in a lost possession. Fortunately, that was overturned when head coach Bobby Petrino challenged and won on a replay.

And, there was the huge highlight reel start to the game when Dennis Johnson returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

"Dennis told me before the game that he was going to take it all the way back," Smith said. "That opening play was awesome. Give credit to our blockers. They all got their man on that first kickoff."

Petrino said the blocking called for that kickoff had been the focus all week.

"We really worked hard on that," he said. "Our back three all got their man, although we might have gotten away with a hold on one of them. Dennis did a great job of hitting the crease."

The kickoffs out of bounds are a concern. "That was surprising," Petrino said. "(Alex Tejada) had been kicking off real well in camp. Sometimes when you try to swing your leg too hard, you hook it.

"I do like the way he approached things in PAT and field goals. He was real good there." Tejada nailed a 20-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half, then added a 24-yarder late in the third quarter.

"Really, our whole operation (on field goals) is much better," Petrino said. "We've just got to kick off a lot better."

Joe Adams opened the game as the punt returner, but gave way to Jerell Norton after too many balls on the carpet.

"Joe had been real good," Smith said. "Really, so had Michael Smith. He could still do it. Jerell is the most natural catcher we have. He's legit at just going and fielding it. He has natural instincts. We have to get better at that area."

If not, the Hogs are going to lose huge chunks of land -- and maybe games.

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